EY’s pitch to appeal to millennial employees: volunteer projects

One of EY’s most popular benefits not only helps the company retain and recruit young talent — it also has the added bonus of giving back to the community.

The accounting firm holds an annual volunteer event for its employees, called EY Connect Day, that has grown steadily over the eight years since it began. At this year’s event, held on Oct. 5, 23,600 EY employees from around the globe participated in more than 940 volunteer projects with nearly 650 nonprofit organizations. Employees helped with projects ranging from teaching high school students how to write a resumé to feeding the homeless to helping immigrants practice their language skills.

“Millennials definitely have high expectations of companies when it comes to societal impact,” says Deborah K. Holmes, EY Americas’ director of corporate responsibility. “They expect companies to take stands on important social issues, and they expect their employers to offer meaningful volunteer opportunities that ‘count’ in performance appraisals and promotion.”

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Volunteering benefits are on the rise as employers look to meet young workers’ desire to make an impact in their communities. In the past four years, employers offering paid time off for volunteering has increased 8%, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2018 annual survey. Meanwhile, a recent employee survey by Unum found that 12% of workers rated dedicated volunteer hours as a must-have employee benefit.

See also: Win-win of corporate volunteering programs point to continued expansion

“Our people love volunteering in their communities, and it shows in the numbers each year,” says Sheri Beale, senior associate, EY Americas Corporate Responsibility.

EY Connect Day started in 2010 in response to feedback from employees and as part of a broader focus on employee engagement, Beale adds.

“Over time, cities in all 10 of our Americas geographic regions held EY Connect Days with great success,” she says. The annual volunteer event now gives EY employees “the opportunity to develop relationships inside and outside of EY, practice inclusive teaming and share skills they use every day with their clients with the public through skills-based projects.”

Since the inception of the program, EY employees have logged nearly 650,000 volunteer hours across the Americas, Beale adds.

Research shows that skills-based volunteerism contributes 10 times more value to communities than generic volunteerism, so EY offers workers a wide range of opportunities to use and build their workplace skills through engagement in their communities, Beale says. “The opportunities we provide focus on societal impact in three areas we call our 3Es: education, entrepreneurship and equity in the workforce,” she says.

For example, College MAP is EY’s group-mentoring program wherein groups of EY professionals work with groups of inner-city high school students in 35 cities across the U.S.

For high performers, EY offers a suite of corporate responsibility sabbaticals — up to six months — that places employees on a full-time basis with either an entrepreneurial business in a foreign location or a not-for-profit organization in their hometown.

While EY has some expansive programs in place, employers of all sizes can create volunteering opportunities for their workers, Holmes says, adding that “a commitment from the top is imperative.”

Employers should look inward when designing their programs, she says, and ask, “do we want to focus our societal-impact efforts on topics that align with our corporate strategy and business model, or do we want to support causes our employees are passionate about?”

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